WARNING: Spoilers for the “Game of Thrones” series.
HBO’s “Game of Thrones” would not be quite as epic without Daenerys’ dragons.
Though Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal started off small in season one, they’ve since grown to nearly 80 feet long and are strong enough to carry Daenerys on their back.
Because of all the fire-breathing, flying, and roaring, a whole team of people at special effects company Pixomondo works to build the dragons for the fantasy series.
And their job has only become more challenging over time. Keep reading to see how much both the dragons and the CGI has evolved since season one, plus learn a lot of great tidbits culled from behind-the-scenes HBO videos.
In season one, we’re introduced to Daenerys’ dragons when she walks into Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre and her dragon eggs hatch.
The dragons in “Game of Thrones” are black with red markings (Drogon), green with bronze markings (Rhaegal), and cream with gold markings (Viserion).
The dragons have two back legs, a long neck, a tale, and two wings. They’re about the size of a large parrot.
We next see the dragons in the first episode of season two as Daenerys leads her Dothraki followers across the Red Waste.
In season two, the actors were given prop dragon puppets on set to make sure they were looking at the dragons and to give them something to interact with.
In Qarth, the dragons learn the command “dracarys” for “dragonfire.” They’re about the size of small cats here.
That command comes in handy later when Daenerys must rescue them from the House of the Undying after they’re stolen from her.
Finally, they’re back with their mom. You can really tell how much more believable the CGI has become since season two.
In season three, the dragons are much larger. To make their cries, supervising sound editor Tim Kimmel explained in a behind-the-scenes video that they used the sounds of two tortoises mating.
He said the dragon cries are often a myriad of animal noises — they’ve used the cries of birds, dolphin sounds, “pissed-off” seals, lions, and more.
We also saw much more advanced CGI fire come from the dragons in season three. Here’s that epic scene when Daenerys gets her army of Unsullied.
That fire looks so much more realistic than in season two.
Directly after that scene, we see the dragons fly above Daenerys and her army. The wings were inspired by bats, but seemed a bit more stiff than later seasons.
When we next see the dragons in season four, they’re much larger and more unruly. Their mannerisms were copied from animals like Komodo dragons, iguanas, horned lizards, and crocodiles as well as eagles, bats, and even pelicans.
The dragons become a nuisance in Meereen and Daenerys is forced to lock up her children beneath the city (minus Drogon, who’s MIA).
It’s a sad scene to watch, made more believable by the impressive CGI work.
Then at the end of season five, Drogon finally shows up to save Daenerys from the Sons of the Harpy. He’s roughly 40 feet long here.
The “Game of Thrones” visual effect crew used a crane with a flame thrower to make it easier for actors to react to the dragon.
This is the first time Daenerys gets to fly on the dragon, too. Some fans thought this scene felt a bit clunky.
While Daenerys is gone, Tyrion goes down to deal with the other two dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, below Meereen.
Though it’s hard to tell in the dark of the pit, they no longer look differentiated by colors as much anymore.
Undoing their chains and freeing them took some epic acting on Peter Dinklage’s part, who plays Tyrion.
All he really had to work with were some green screen props.
Later in season six, Daenerys and Drogon are reunited once more. In season six, the dragons doubled in size, which means Drogon is now about 80 feet long.
Once they get back to Meereen, Daenerys rides Drogon and seemingly has full control over both him and her two other dragons as well.
All three dragons help burn some of the attacking ships from the other Slaver’s Bay cities.
They’ve come a pretty long ways since season one — both the dragons and their special effects.
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